California Defends Its Net Neutrality Law

Article Source: Center for Internet and Society Blog, Stanford Law School, September 17, 2020
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Net neutrality law limits Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) control of Internet uses and users. Federal net neutrality rules were repealed, but states should be able to enact their own net neutrality rules.


Policy Relevance:

California’s net neutrality law allows users to control their own use of the Internet.


Key Takeaways:
  • In September of 2020, California filed a brief defending its state net neutrality law in a lawsuit brought by the United States and several ISPs, including Comcast and AT&T.
  • Net Neutrality is a principle limiting ISPs’ efforts to control and manage how consumers and customers use the Internet.
  • In 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed federal net neutrality regulations; in response, California adopted its own net neutrality law, SB 822.
  • SB 822 prohibits ISPs from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up websites, and from charging for a "fast lane" to reach ISP subscribers.
  • In Mozilla v. FCC, decided in 2019, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC's repeal of federal net neutrality rules was legal, but that the FCC lacked authority to prevent states from enacting their own net neutrality rules.
  • The ISPs’ challenge to the California net neutrality law argues that the Communications Act bans the states from regulating the Internet; this argument goes too far, as it would invalidate every state law governing online services, including privacy laws.
  • ISPs would not suffer irreparable harm from the California law; some ISPs claim it is impossible to comply with different net neutrality laws in different states, but other ISPs disagree.
  • SB 822 ensures that individual Californians, not ISPs, may decide how to use the Internet.



Barbara van Schewick

About Barbara van Schewick

Barbara van Schewick is the M. Elizabeth Magill Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, and Professor by courtesy of Electrical Engineering in Stanford University’s Department of Electrical Engineering. Her research focuses on the economic, regulatory, and strategic implications of communication networks. In particular, she explores how changes in the architecture of computer networks affect the economic environment for innovation and competition on the Internet, and how the law should react to these changes.

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